Sunday, 24 June 2012

Recipe LXII - Stoved Chicken

Last weekend, I was in Belgium and whilst perusing the shops of Leuven's historic centre, I came across a bookshop where, in the window, was the last thing any Belgian would ever expect to find in pride of place: "Good Housekeeping: Book of British Food". Billowing with nostalgic pride, I immediately opened it, and found everything in it you could ever wish for in a book: advice on choosing various meat; when fruits and vegetables are in season; where the best places in each British region are to buy various items; local gastronomic events, and the main wine producers in the UK. It was a small fortune, but I bought it and took it to work to show my classes. They were pretty fascinated, and not one made a sarcastic remark. Ladies and gentlemen, British food is being taken seriously - get used to it!
Today, I am sampling a recipe from that very book, which took the fancy of some of my French, Spanish and Italian students. As with a lot of British recipes, they are mere guidelines, and not Gospel, so I have adapted it to suit my requirements and tastes.

500g chicken breasts, halved or 4 chicken quarters
2 thick slices of back bacon, the skin removed and cut into strips
6-8 large potatoes (floury ones like King Edwards), peeled and cut into slices
2 small onions and 2 shallots
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
7 teaspoon-sized knobs of butter
600ml chicken stock
Salt & plenty of ground black pepper
Fresh chives for garnishing

Instructions (there are three layers: potatoes, meat, potatoes):
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Fry the chicken, shallots and the bacon for about five minutes to seal, until they are lightly browned. Leave to one side.

Start layering half the amount of onions and potatoes in a casserole. This will be the bottom layer of the three. Do not forget to season it well - I sprinkled ground black pepper between them. Put half of your knobs of butter in strategic places.

Now put the bacon, chicken and shallots on top. This will be the middle layer of your dish. Sprinkle the thyme into it.

And now for the top layer. Repeat the bottom one, not forgetting the butter. Pour over the chicken stock so it barely covers the ingredients. Put the whole thing into the oven, and wait for about 2 and a half hours.

Sprinkle the chives on top just before serving.

The recipe was in every way spot-on in terms of measurements, cooking times and flavour balance. However, I would say carrots, garlic and some white wine would go extremely well with this recipe.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Book of British Food, and believe that the bookshelf of every true lover of cooking would only be enhanced by it.

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